Calling all pre-pubescent celebrities

By Leila Sales

I am deeply concerned about the current state of child actors. As best I can tell, our society has only one—Dakota Fanning. She has to play every role from snobbish Manhattan prep school girl in Uptown Girls to potentially delusional schizoid in Hide and Seek. She appears on the red carpet nearly every weekend, sporting corduroy jumpers and, sometimes, a teddy bear.

Now, I don’t blame Dakota for cornering the child star market. Lord knows I would do the same if I were cute and looked good in corduroy. However, there are no boys to play opposite Dakota, and that is where our problem lies. At first I thought Haley Joel Osment could take care of this, but then it turned out that he’s a grown-up now. Like with facial hair. You wondered where he’s been since A.I.? Oh, yeah. Growing a beard.

Clearly, Haley Joel is no longer fit to star in dopey-yet-touching comedies about children, their pets, and all their crazy escapades. We need new young male actors, and we need them now. This is where Google comes in. If you run a search on this (and I recommend that you do), you will find that the internet is teeming with prepubescent wannabe celebrities. Dozens of websites are devoted to these 6-to-12-year-old boys’ headshots, resumes, and hunky shirtless photos. It’s the shirtless shots that freak me out the most, because I always think, “Dude waxes his chest!” before I realize, “No, Dude just hasn’t sprouted hair yet.”

An additional bonus of these child star sites is that they often have photos of underage beauty queens, like Jon Benet Ramsey, except alive (presumably). My favorites are the beauty pageant winners who can’t yet walk, so their fathers have to carry them onstage to accept their trophies. Unfortunately, the trophy is usually twice the size of the winner herself, so her father has to hold it on her behalf. This causes the little girl to be like, “Oh my God, that thing is big and shiny! I want it! Gimmie, Daddy!”

So she tries to reach out her stubby little arms for the trophy, except she’s encased in so much tulle that she can’t even move. So then she bursts into tears. The captions on these photos always state, like, “Bethany is so overjoyed at being crowned Miss Baby South Carolina that she can’t control her emotions!” Whereas I see these photos and think, “Bethany looks like an asshole.” But this is why I don’t judge beauty pageants.

Casting little boys in major motion pictures, though, is definitely my profession of choice. I don’t know why CAPS runs no workshops on breaking into this field. If ever I were in charge of casting, say, Christopher Robin in a film adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh, or Tom Sawyer in a film adaptation of Tom Sawyer, or Tyler Hanson in a film adaptation of The Hanson Brothers’ Exclusive Fanzine, my career potential would be evident.

I first developed an eye for starlets during the original Star Search, hosted by Ed McMahon. Star Search was one of my favorite childhood programs because it featured kids just like me, except they wore shiny suits and tap-danced. The only problem was, until I was six years old, I didn’t develop much of a concept of television channels or, for that matter, time. So I spent hours staring fixedly at a television which was usually tuned to C-SPAN, willing it to broadcast Star Search.

Sometimes, totally coincidentally, my wish came true and I caught a few minutes of junior divas belting out soul tunes. This intermittent reinforcement was frequent enough to keep me glued to my TV day in and day out. I think my parents believed I was one of those TV addicts who is incapable of living in the real world. Actually, I was just a child star addict who’s incapable of living in the real world. So that is not the same thing at all.

I really wish the major networks would stop churning out all those copycat American Idol programs and instead go back to focusing their attention on underage talent shows. Frankly, we just don’t need that many more pop stars. We need a few, but can you really keep abreast of gossip surrounding anyone other than Britney, Christina, and the Simpson sisters? (And please don’t even front like you don’t pay attention to the minutiae of Ashlee’s life. Sure, it’s boring, but you totally care.) The pop star market is saturated, but the young male actor market is wide open. Anyone want to step up to the plate? Someone with a lot of time on their hands and no other career prospects? Lance Bass, I’m looking at you here.